Former Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, is the Director General of the Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organisation for the 2019 presidential election. He speaks in this interview on the chances of the former vice president emerging the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as well as winning the election. FELIX NWANERI reports
How would you access the state of the nation?
I think that a number of people have been quite unhappy with the progression in the political system, and if we are not careful, we will continue to retrogress in the quality of people steering the ship of state. You can imagine what happened since the days of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the kind of personalities in the process now.
You are the Director General of the Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organisation, what his chances of picking not only the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but winning the election given opposition against his candidature, particularly from former President Olusegun Obasanjo?
I am aware that once upon a time, President Obasanjo said that he doesn’t think that Muhammadu Buhari would be a good president, but at the last minute something happened. May be, he got better information and he changed his mind. If he can change his mind then, he equally can do so now.
Besides Obasanjo’s opposition to Atiku’s ambition, there are insinuations that the present administration is out to frame up the former vice president on the basis of some spurious allegations. How do you intend to navigate through this?
Let me also go back to President Obasanjo. He is fond of making one statement, that there is no public officer, who can survive a hostile investigation and I think that statement is quite profound.
So, I think we should look at it from that angle. And if you look at what is going on today, who is prosecuted is a question of the whims and caprices of the Attorney General. But, talking factually, I do know that in our country, it is easy to call a dog a bad name in order to hang it and that happens all the time.
The fact of the case as far as former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is concerned is that he has not been charged, not prosecuted and he has lost his immunity since 2007. That is about 11 years. If he lost his immunity 11 years ago and he has not been charged, not been declared wanted and he is going about freely; you must then situate whatever it is within the realms of speculation and serious minded people don’t take decisions because of speculations.
Considering the recent defections into the PDP, what is Atiku’s chance in the party’s presidential primary as some of the defectors equally have their eyes on the ticket?
There is no one who has a guarantee on any political aspiration. The best you can do is to try your best and pray that the people, who has the power to decide, to reason logically. I think that if we want to get serious as a nation, we must appreciate that the job of president of Nigeria is not a job for small boys. I have heard people talk about the young man in France and some other countries, but those are homogenous countries, they have the same language, the same people and the same level of education.
There are systems in place and you don’t need to be close to the person in power to thrive. You don’t even need to know their names because the system in place runs very well, but in our own case, the systems are not strong enough, so it is about personalities.
That is why people continue to say that the biggest challenge we have in Nigeria is leadership. The constitution is in order, we are looking for who will run it and until we are able to build strong institutions, I am afraid, we will continue look for veterans, who have good understanding of the heterogeneity of this country, and who appreciates that the thinking of the man in the South-West is completely differently from his compatriot in the North-West or in the South-East.
It is a democracy, so the more the merrier and all the people who are coming are most welcome, but in the interest of you and I as well as the masses of this country, we must chose someone who has the reach, the network, the background and who can drive the economy and polity in a way that all issues that Nigerians are not happy with could be resolved based on genuine intention and experience.
Atiku would be facing a candidate from the North in the presidential election if he gets the PDP ticket, which means he wouldn’t enjoy the advantage of a block vote from the region as President Buhari did in 2015. Won’t that be a minus for him?
I think that would rather be a big advantage because if you look at what happened during the last election, a large section of our people from the North genuinely believed that it was the turn of the region. Because President Umaru Yar’adua died, they felt a sense of entitlement; that one of them should have been allowed to carry on and complete the ‘eight-year’ tenure expected of the North.
But, the 2019 presidential election is going to be a contest between a northerner and an- other northerner. With Buhari declaring to contest the election, whatever primary election the All Progressives Congress (APC) will have would be a mere formality because he is already the party’s candidate.
Also the PDP has declared at its national convention that the presidential ticket is zoned to the North. So, the election is going to be between northerners. What it means is that the 12 million votes will no longer be there because it would be shared.
Apart from that, Atiku is speaking the language of the South-West, which is restructuring and that is an added advantage. He also is speaking the language of the people of the South-South and South-East, which is resource control. So, if logical reasoning is anything to go by, I don’t have any doubt in my mind that he stands a good chance and I have a strong feeling that he will be the next president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
What are Atiku’s selling points that Nigerians would be looking at if he gets the PDP ticket?
Beyond the politics of numbers, the former vice president has clearly had the opportunity to play a major role in the private sector, which everybody agrees, will be the main driver of the new economy. He therefore understands in that perspective, the meaning of jobs. He understands that a situation where you have a large chunk of young people unemployed, you are sitting on a time bomb. He also has a rich public service background and he is a businessman.
When you look at what is driving economies around the world, you will find out that is not income or Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), it is venture capital, the capacity to attract investment, which in turn creates jobs that is our biggest challenge today. I do also know Atiku as someone, who has the capacity to identify talents and put them to good use given what he did when he was in government.
You will agree with me that quite a number of those he dragged out from where they were to come and serve in government did exceptionally well. He also has a liberal disposition about religion. Basically if you look at the problems of Nigeria today, they are economy, religious intolerance and security. So, the best thing Nigerians should do in 2019 is to go for a man who has capacity and knows what to do.
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